Some thoughts following Lafayette’s 45-27 win over Georgetown Saturday.
Saturday’s game in one word? Deflating.
Watching the end of the game was, to me, a feeling not unlike the end of the 2005 season, a 34-7 loss to Colgate that marked Georgetown’s third straight loss and, unknown to everyone at the time, Bob Benson’s final game as Georgetown coach. The 2005 season was known for some big losses (Holy Cross, 48-6, Brown, 34-3, Cornell 57-7), but maybe more importantly, close losses. The Hoyas lost three games by a total of 11 points—a 4-7 record could just as easily been 7-4.What might have been.
Such is not the case in 2013. Since the first week of the season, the Hoyas have not lost a game by less than 18 points, and too many games have been out of reach by halftime, with unseemly margins closed only by late quarter scores. Georgetown trailed Lafayette 35-7 when the reserves went in. Whatever “momentum” was gained with a well planned drive was flushed when Lafayette took the return kickoff largely untouched, up the middle, for 99 yards.
So where’s the outrage? Where’s the voices demanding responsibility? Well, they were probably at home. Saturday’s crowd at unfinished Multi-Sport Field was generously billed at 1,789 but it seems a lot of folks attended as unadorned aluminum bleachers. The losing streak and the lack of any public direction on where this square peg of a Patriot League program is headed has too many fans simply not interested. "Is it November yet?" they ask, and that's not a query about football.
Others ask, if Georgetown is getting thumped by 15-scholarship Patriot teams, what happens when it’s 30 scholarships next year? Then 45? Then 60?
Last week, coach Kevin Kelly spoke up about the elephant in the room, Georgetown’s lack of football scholarships. That no one from The HOYA or the Washington Post or WRC-TV has raised this all season is one thing, but other than The HOYA, who else is asking? Kelly’s comments follow below:
“It’s not my choice, but I am seeing this, it is affecting our recruiting. People, the first question they ask is, Are you giving scholarships? And I have to be honest and say that we’re not. And you’re starting to see in the league this year that some of these scholarship athletes are starting to make an impact on the league right away. In fact, just look at the two quarterbacks from Holy Cross and Lafayette last week. There are two great examples right there. Actually, we’re going to have to make a decision what we’re doing here.”
A follow-up from this weekend from veteran PL writer Paul Reinhard:
“Georgetown lost for the seventh straight week. The administration at the university declined to go along with the rest of the league in instituting merit-based scholarships beginning with the  recruiting class. Things are not going to get any better for the Hoyas [if] there is no change of mind from above. I will not be at all surprised if this is the last season at Georgetown for Coach Kelly. He told us [earlier] in the week that the university had to make a decision about scholarships for the future. I’m afraid that decision has already been made.”
The University is not a place that supports out of turn quotes, especially from coaches. A generation of track coaches never publicly complained when their facilities went away, when coaches were left borrowing vans for a nationally ranked program to train off-hours at Washington & lee HS because that was as good as they could get. In fact, for some number of years there was no public comment about track facilities, save for a frank discussion by Ron Helmer at an athletic awards dinner one year. Helmer was later hired away by Indiana, which could offer him full-sized facilities for both indoor and outdoor track which would dwarf anything imaginable at Georgetown.
John Thompson or Craig Esherick didn’t choose to complain about how bad McDonough Gymnasium was for recruiting, though they well could have, and even now JT III is very measured in what he will say about the ongoing delays with the IAC. Georgetown has a field hockey team that practices at American and plays at College Park because Georgetown never fixed Kehoe Field. As a result, the team is 2-16 and struggles to be of interest to any serious recruit in the sport. Even Kevin Kelly has steered clear of any substantive thoughts on the MSF dilemma, even as Benson made no secret about the mess in his last months as coach—and that was after a delay of 30 or 40 days, not 2,972.
Scholarships are different, however. Parents ask. Recruits ask. Reporters north of the Mason-Dixon line ask. But Georgetown seems to have no good answer on what to say. Yes, there are discussions, I’m convinced of that. But institutionally, it’s not the priority to the University as it is for the coaches, because the University isn’t losing credibility over a 1-8 season. But coaches are.
And consider this: Of the 24 seniors graduating next year, 21 were on the two-deep at some point this season. That’s a lot of gaps to fill, and if the results of the last recruiting class is any trend, the talent gap is going to widen even more in 2014. Kelly and his staff are facing a two pronged problem—the opponents are getting stronger and the replacements are getting weaker.
The last sustained statement from Georgetown on this issue? February 2012.
“Georgetown will continue its membership in the Patriot League in the sport of football and explore all of its options, including our ability to compete as a need-based aid program. We remain committed to our goal of providing our student athletes with an unparalleled academic experience and an athletically competitive football program.”
Meanwhile, the coaches have to go out and recruit, perhaps with a 1-10 season under its belt, four years removed from 0-11 but more importantly, two years removed from an 8-3 season. They have to tell a parent why Lehigh can offer a $60,000 check but Georgetown can’t. Or tell another parent why Lafayette shows lots of pictures of their stadium and field house but Georgetown can't. Or, just as likely, they have to concede that five, 10, or 20 good prospects who were so interested at Georgetown a year ago will end up going somewhere else and there’s nothing they can do about it.